Monday, April 27, 2009

"If I Never Hear These Questions Again, It Will Be Too Soon" - Bettye Zoller

Bettye Zoller is a member of the Voice123 Coach Partner Program. She has been kind enough to write this article for the benefit of the voice over community. We hope you find it useful.

"Let me begin this article with a couple of wise quotes from veteran broadcasters I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I won’t mention names, but here ‘tis:
  1. If you tell me you are “thinking about” going into broadcasting or voiceovers, I’m going to advise you not to do it. You obviously do not have the passion, the fire, the drive if you’re only “thinking about it.” Go into another line of work!
  2. It never matters how good someone is at what they do if that person doesn’t sell, sell, sell. A good salesperson will always make more money and have more success in any given endeavor than a talented person will have, every time!”

As a longtime voice, speech, singing, and voice over coach, it is the voice over students who ask questions over and over again, many times, unanswerable questions! So, I decided to write this article in an effort to aid voice performers in overcoming “fear of failure,” the real reason behind these unanswerable questions. First, here are the questions:
  1. How long will it take me to make money in the voiceover business?
  2. I want to quit my job (retire or whatever…) so do you think voiceovers will allow me to do that without a loss of income?
  3. What is the start-up cost involved in becoming a voiceover performer?
  4. Do you think it’s worth the money to join an online pay-to-play voiceover website?
  5. Do you think I should renew my membership with an online pay-to-play voiceover website?
  6. Why am I not winning more online auditions?
  7. OK. I’ve downloaded the Audacity recording software and I put a microphone on my computer. I’m all set up as a recording studio but don’t know how to record anything on it. What should I do?
  8. OK. I don’t have the money for a voiceover CD demo because I just spent all my money outfitting my computer as a recording studio. Is that ok? I can do the demo in awhile.
  9. I just paid to be on Voice123. Now what? Should I have signed up through you, my coach?
  10. How do I know which online jobs to audition for and which to pass over?
  11. How do I find a good voiceover coach?

Everybody, here are the ‘answers'! (only kidding…), but I’ll try to clarify some issues:
  1. Who knows? Ask a fortune teller but don’t pay more than $5.00 and don’t expect an answer from her either.
  2. Remember: Voiceovers, just like every other business in the world today or forever in history has or has had a startup period, a build. Voiceovers are no exception. It usually takes two to six years to establish a career if you’re diligent and good and a terrific networker and salesperson.
  3. From $500 to $5000 dollars: Ask an architect how much it will cost to build a house for you. What sort of house? What materials? Where? There are too many variables to quote start up costs for anything…ever. But one thing is clear: Starting a voice business is far less costly than many, many other types of businesses.
  4. Yes. Joining a pay to play online voiceover site is the foundation of today’s voice business. I predict that in years ahead, our online voiceover work will supercede any other type of voiceover work.
  5. Yes.
  6. Who knows? Are you auditioning for jobs not suited to your strengths? Are you a beginning voiceover performer or someone who, as of yet, is not very accomplished? Is your accent or dialect or perhaps your poor diction causing the rejections? Do you need more voiceover training? Are you auditioning for jobs you don’t fit? Are you auditioning for jobs requiring a higher level of audio engineering or certain recording equipment you don’t have yet or that you are not capable of providing at this time? Are your audition MP3s noisy, boomy, too low in volume? But also, know that auditioning is “a NUMBERS GAME.” Also, some clients should have chosen YOU but didn’t! (There…do you feel better now?) Let me tell you the story about the client who did not choose me because I reminded him of his ex-wife! (True!) Do you know that statistics show that most small businesses fail because they gave up too soon? There is no explanation for why one person is chosen in most auditions over another equally good person. Learn to live with this fact!
  7. Investigate community colleges in your area to find a recording studio course and enroll in it. Perhaps find an audio engineer working at a local recording studio who will teach you privately a few times to answer your questions and give you a start on knowing more about recording. Ask your local library for a book on recording techniques. Search online for articles on websites addressing your concerns about recording yourself. Talk with others in voiceovers who may share information. Query others in an online chat group, on a message board, or in an online email group to get answers to some questions.
  8. Every week that you do NOT yet have a “killer” demo (or more than one!) simply postpones your possible successes one week further into the future. The demo is the foundation of everything. You put the “cart before the horse.” By spending your money on the recording gear too soon. First comes study. The demo comes next. Setting up your computer as a recording studio comes down the line. Learn your craft and get good at it before putting in a studio. And don’t do a demo until you’re ready either! Never do a demo with a so-called producer who works with you one hour to day and shoves you in front of a microphone. Your demo should be prepared totally, rehearsed, the copy chosen with great care.
  9. Voice123 has a “coaches’ program whereby a coach who is a signed coach with the site can offer a newcomer a free trial period before he or she pays to become a premium member. Take advantage of this trial period by signing up for it through your voice coach. If your coach is not a Voice123 coach, ask the folks at Voice123 to refer you to a resident coach. I help my students who join on the trial program through me to build their page, upload their demos, get a start. Ask your coach for help.
  10. “Know Thyself.” If you do not know your strengths, get busy with a coach who can help you identify these areas. No one is good at everything. Only do what you’re fabulous doing. Make a list of your voiceover strengths. Stick with it. Pass over auditions that are not among your best areas. And set limits on “how low you’ll go” with the lowball jobs on the online sites. What’s your asking price?
  11. A coach is not “good” for everyone…only good for SOME PEOPLE. Unless a coach is untrained and not knowledgeable, uncaring and unprofessional, that coach can probably impart to you some wisdom, teach you some good things. Everyone should study with a variety of coaches. Study often! And if a certain coach is not your “favorite,” not the “best coach” you’ve had, please do not take that to mean the coach might not be good for others. Everyone is different with differing needs. A dear friend and colleague, the late Don LaFontaine, once told me, “If you gain one useful bit of knowledge from a teacher or a workshop, it’s been worth the money. And when the lesson’s over or the workshop’s finished, ask yourself what the best piece of new knowledge was that you learned.” So true. Great advice!
Let me close by addressing the greatest fear of all: I call it, “the imposter syndrome.” When students in medical colleges reach the intern-stage of their education, many drop out. They quit. They become fearful of being a physician because they feel inadequate, afraid, untried. This is primarily because of FEAR OF FAILURE. One thing is absolutely certain and I tell all my students this fact: The one certainty is that if you do not try, you have failed. And you never will know if you could have succeeded or not. But also, one must know when enough is enough, when to quit. Not everyone succeeds at voiceovers. Ask yourself these following questions:
  • Are you built to be an entrepreneur?
  • Should you find a job with a steady paycheck?
  • Are you not good at self promotion or sales?
  • Are you shy and fearful of meeting new people?
  • Are you unknowledgeable about recording and really do not want to learn it?
  • Perhaps you also are mostly computer illiterate? Do you have a speech disorder or accent of some kind?
  • Is English, for you, a second or foreign language? Perhaps you should be trying to get more jobs in your primary language.
I constantly dispel the myth that a person who “speaks well” can do well at voiceovers. Not true. It’s much more than only “talking.” It’s voice acting. It’s a REAL BUSINESS! Welcome to the real voiceover world!"

- Bettye Zoller Seitz of is also a Voice123 Coach. See her profile for credentials! She coaches by phone as well as privately. She holds degrees through the doctorate from three universities and is the Feagin Guest Artist Professor at Tulsa University in Oklahoma and The Academy of Dramatic Arts this August in NYC.

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